By Jo Berry
Navigating Sydney University’s hilly campus in my manual wheelchair I was overtaken, even overlooked, on a daily basis. Despite the fact I would struggle to propel myself along, rarely would a fellow student offer their help. Sometimes I’d even try to look pathetic to secure a push! Whenever I did ask for assistance I was always met with the same refrain: I didn’t want to offend you.
I have been in a wheelchair for years now. After a decade of incorrect diagnoses, I’ve been told I have severe connective tissue dysplasia. It can be really painful, and I’ve had 12 surgeries to mend various joints. Every night when I sleep I dislocate my collarbones and have to put them back in the morning myself. It’s a bit like my bones are held together by rotten elastic bands that have lost their stretch. Even my heart and organs are affected by my condition. These days, I use a motorised wheelchair as my shoulders are no longer strong enough to push a manual chair.